Lifeless at the Lighthouse
A fun cozy mystery with two adorable Westies, a beautiful seaside setting, and a strong female sleuth.
Maddie Mills loves her new life in Bayview with her two lovable pups. Being back in her childhood home with old friends and family, and reopening her parents’ bakery is the new start she needed. Everything is coming together. The bakery has its first big job catering for the lighthouse’s anniversary celebration, and she is excited to have her first proper date with the police chief.
But their date comes to a grinding halt when someone plunges to his death at the lighthouse. Maddie is determined to help find out what happened. So, with a little help from her family and friends, she does a little snooping. They quickly discover that the victim was involved in his fair share of sketchy dealings, and getting to the bottom of things is not going to be a piece of cake.
It’s a race against time to find the murderer before someone else plummets to their death!
Release date: July 26, 2023
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Lifeless at the Lighthouse
Lifeless at the Lighthouse
A Maddie Mills Cozy Mystery
Copyright © 2023 Cindy Bell
All rights reserved
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious. Any similarity to or identification with the locations, names, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
All trademarks and brands referred to in this book are for illustrative purposes only, are the property of their respective owners and not affiliated with this publication in any way. Any trademarks are being used without permission, and the publication of the trademark is not authorized by, associated with or sponsored by the trademark owner.
The subtle chatter of the other diners in the new restaurant, Harbor Eats, in the small town of Bayview, created a white noise that helped Maddie Mills relax. As Police Chief Jake Holden’s eyes met hers, she relaxed even more.
She hadn’t been on a date in years. Not since she dated her now ex-husband before she married him almost thirty years ago, but this felt completely natural, even though she never expected that she would ever go on a date with Jake. As she sat across from the chief of police, whom she’d once known as a skinny boy who always seemed eager to look out for her, she couldn’t believe how her life had come full circle. She was back living in her late parents’ house, in her hometown. She had reconnected with old friends and her sister and niece had moved to town shortly after her.
The memory of the kiss she’d recently instigated with Jake while they sat together on her porch came flooding back, and she blushed slightly.
Even at almost fifty years old, she felt the butterflies and dizziness of a first date.
“I know it’s not fancy. I thought about going to another town, but I thought we should give them a try. Apparently, they make great chocolate milkshakes.” Jake smiled as he looked across the table at her. “Although, I doubt anything could come close to Janet’s shakes.” He chuckled.
Janet’s Place was the only other restaurant in town. Maddie had been a regular at the restaurant all through her childhood. But since Harbor Eats had opened, Janet had decided to take the opportunity, after decades of being open every day and night, to close for a couple of nights a week.
“It’s perfect. I’ve been wanting to try it.” Maddie returned his smile. “Although, I probably shouldn’t have a milkshake.”
“Why not?” Jake looked up as the waitress approached their table. “Can we start with two chocolate milkshakes, please?”
“Sure.” She jotted the order down on a notepad. “Any dinner to go with that?” She settled her gaze on Jake as if Maddie wasn’t even there.
“Maddie can order first.” Jake tipped his head toward Maddie.
“Oh, a salad.” Maddie avoided the young woman’s eyes as she tugged her fitted blouse away from her full figure. She’d thought it was perfect when she’d buttoned it up, but now it seemed to accentuate her extra pounds.
“To start?” Jake looked at Maddie.
“Dressing or no dressing?” The waitress tapped her pen against the notepad.
“Who eats salad with no dressing?” Jake chuckled.
“Maybe just on the side.” Maddie’s cheeks burned as she watched the woman look her over again.
“And for you, sir?” The waitress looked at Jake.
“Oh, that’s all right.” Jake peered at her name tag. “April, you can finish taking Maddie’s order first. What are you in the mood for, Maddie? Steak?” He rubbed his hands together. “I think that’s what I’m going to get, with some mashed potatoes on the side.”
“Yes, why not.” Maddie smiled. “I don’t need a salad, then.”
“A salad sounds good. We can share it,” Jake said.
“All right, then. Two chocolate shakes, a salad, and two steaks.” April spun on her heel and walked away.
“Well, she’s a bit abrupt, isn’t she?” Jake chuckled.
“She is.” Wanting to change the subject, Maddie seized on the only big thing happening in Bayview. “Are you excited about the celebration? A lighthouse’s two-hundred-year anniversary seems pretty fantastic.”
“Excited?” Jake grimaced. “Not exactly. Big public events always make me a little nervous. Too many people in one place. Things can go wrong.”
“But you’ll be there to keep everyone in line, right?” Maddie grinned.
“That’s the plan.” Jake smiled. “I hear you’re providing some of your delicious cupcakes for the event. That part I’m excited about.”
“Yes, and I’m trying a new recipe for it, too. Lemon meringue. I’ll have to let you test some to make sure they’re up to par.” Maddie felt a sudden rush of excitement and nervousness from all that needed to be done before the celebration. She had agreed to provide a large selection of cupcakes.
Luckily, she had her sister and niece to help her get everything done, but with the bakery just getting off the ground, she had to make sure to prevent any disasters.
“I’m sure they’ll be delicious, but I’m happy to try anything you want me to.”
“Great. You’ll be like my crash-test dummy.” Maddie laughed. “Okay, that might not be the best analogy.”
“Milkshakes.” April set down the tall, frosty glasses in front of them.
Jake’s nearly overflowed with the chocolate shake at the edge of the glass and whipped cream piled on top.
Maddie’s chocolate shake didn’t quite make it to the middle of the glass with just a dollop of whipped cream on top.
“What’s this about?” Jake pointed at Maddie’s glass.
“She ordered a small.” April shrugged.
“No, she didn’t. I ordered the milkshakes, and I didn’t say anything about a small.” Jake’s voice took on an authoritative tone.
“Jake, it’s fine. This is the perfect amount.” Maddie laughed. “I need room for my steak.” She opened her mouth to say more, but his cell phone began to ring.
Jake locked his eyes to Maddie’s as if he was about to make a point, then glanced down at his phone and frowned.
“It’s okay, go ahead and answer it,” Maddie said.
“No, tonight I want to be focused on you.” Jake turned his phone face down on the table and looked back at her.
April put a small salad down in front of Maddie. Maddie quickly noticed that there was no dressing.
Jake opened his mouth to object when his phone began to ring again. April walked off.
“I told them not to bother me tonight.” Jake glanced at his phone again.
“Then it must be important. You should answer it.” Maddie took a sip of her milkshake and pushed the salad to the center of the table.
“Are you sure you don’t mind? This night isn’t going as I had planned.”
“Relax, Jake.” Maddie smiled as she studied the stress in his expression. “You don’t have to plan anything. Just spending time together is nice. I know how important your job is. If someone needs you, you should answer.”
Jake stared into her eyes for a long moment. The tension in his features began to ease. He placed the phone to his ear.
“Someone better be dead.” Jake paused, then winced. “No, I didn’t hear about it already. The lighthouse?” He paused again, then narrowed his eyes. “Do we know who, yet?” He stood up from the table. “All right, I’ll be right there.”
“What’s happened?” Maddie stood up as well. “Is everything okay?”
“I’m afraid not.” Jake pulled a few twenties from his wallet and set them down on the table. “I’m so sorry, Maddie, but I have to go.”
“Wait, is there anything I can do to help?” Maddie started to follow him.
“Just promise me you’ll enjoy your meal, and finish your shake.” Jake winked at her before he hurried out through the door.
As Maddie sat back down, April placed a plate of steak and mashed potatoes in front of Maddie and one in front of Jake’s empty chair.
“Oh? Did he take off?” April lingered beside her table. “Sorry about that, hon. It doesn’t always work out.”
“There was an emergency. Can you please bring me a container for his food?”
“Really? Are you going to have his, too?” April laughed. “Two steaks, a salad, and a chocolate milkshake. You’ve got a big appetite.”
“Excuse me?” Maddie looked up at the young woman. “Please, just bring me a container. I’m going to make sure he has a chance to have his meal.”
“Sure, okay.” April tried to meet Maddie’s eyes. “I didn’t mean to upset you? Some people say my humor is a bit dry.”
“Just get me the container, please.” Maddie tried to keep her voice even. “Some people should tell you to mind your own business.”
“No need to be snippy.” April snapped the gum in her mouth as she walked away.
Maddie tried to put her disappointment aside as she ate her steak. She’d been looking forward to spending the evening with Jake, but he was right, things hadn’t gone as planned. She took a deep breath and focused on not letting April get under her skin. She’d been through enough in her life to know how to handle someone like her. Instead, she decided she would do her best to turn the night around. Jake would be starving by the time he finished up with his call. She could meet him at the lighthouse and invite him back to her house to finish his meal.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...